The University of Chicago News Office
Oct. 20, 2004 Press Contact: Sabrina Miller
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University of Chicago Law School launches major initiative to develop guidelines on animal treatment for producers and consumers

An October 29 conference at the University of Chicago Law School will launch a major initiative — The Chicago Project on Animal Treatment Principles — to examine best practice standards and disclosure guidelines for the treatment of animals in various industries. The all-day conference will bring together leading scholars, animal welfare advocates, and industry experts in this emerging area of business and law, as the first step in a process to generate far more information about animal treatment than is currently available to both producers and consumers. The project is funded through a grant from the McCormick Companions’ Fund.

“This conference will help us understand how we should treat animals raised for food,” said Cass Sunstein, one of the organizers of the Chicago Project, who is Karl N. Llewellyn Distinguished Service Professor at the Law School. The agenda includes a review of current practices and future directions in animal husbandry and slaughter, labeling initiatives, and the incorporation of animal welfare guidelines into the production process.

In addition to Sunstein, the Chicago Project is led by Martha Nussbaum, Ernest Freund Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, Julie Roin, Seymour Logan Professor in the Law School, and Jeff Leslie, Assistant Clinical Professor of Law at the Law School. Sunstein and Nussbaum are among the leading scholars in the incipient field of animal rights law, and recently co-edited Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions, published by Oxford University Press.

Sunstein explained that in recent years industry trade groups and animal welfare organizations have offered competing guidelines on humane treatment of animals raised for food, which often conflict “and, unfortunately, speak past one another in an attempt to set standards at widely different levels of generality. The development of guidelines and auditing and monitoring regimes are all commendable,” Sunstein said, “but they do not go far enough in providing information to consumers who wish to consider animal welfare in making food purchasing decisions.” Sunstein explained that even the most transparent of the existing auditing and monitoring regimes do not provide consumers with much information unless the consumer researches the standards and criteria behind the label on the package.

“We should be able to do much better than the confusion and misperception that currently surround this issue,” said Nussbaum. “Information for the consumer is woefully inadequate and often poorly timed for an informed decision.” The ongoing Law School project will develop “Chicago Principles” to assist producers in making animal welfare information accessible to consumers using easily understood labels and other methods.

“Consumer choice would be greatly enhanced by a move to a more substantive, mandatory labeling regime that focuses on a limited number of clearly defined producer practices that have the greatest impact on animal welfare, consumer preferences, and firm behavior,” Roin said. “There are obviously feasibility questions — chief among them cost — that will require further study and analysis, but we believe this is an important and necessary beginning.”

“Disclosure of animal treatment practices in food production is only the first step for the Chicago Project,” says Leslie. “Over time, we will look at the role that disclosure can play across a variety of industries that use animals in their production processes.”

The October 29 conference is free and open to the public. Media are invited to cover the event, and still and broadcast photography are permitted with prior approval. Additional information on the Chicago Project on Animal Treatment Principles, the conference agenda, and details on the speakers can be found at
Last modified at 06:00 PM CST on Wednesday, October 20, 2004.

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